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How does the Sale of Goods Act protect you when you buy a car?

Whether you buy a new or used car from a dealer before October 1st 2015, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 applies

Words by: First published: 24th July 2015
Applying to anything that’s sold in the UK, this act covers both new and used cars. However, it only applies to deals where the contract was signed before October 1st 2015. For deals concluded after that date, you're covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Most importantly, the Sale of Goods Act insists that anything you buy must be:
  • ‘Of satisfactory quality’ (in the case of a used car, this takes into account a car’s age and mileage)
  • ‘Fit for purpose’
  • ‘As described’
Clearly, there’s a bit of wriggle room in these terms, but what it boils down to is this: within six months of buying a car, if it does not satisfy one of these points, you can have it repaired or replaced, or get a partial or full refund.

‘Of satisfactory quality’ is fairly self-explanatory, but an example of a vehicle that’s not ‘fit for purpose’ would be if a salesman told you it could tow a certain weight, but it turned out to be unable to do so. Something not being ‘as described’ would be if the car turned up painted in the wrong colour or fitted with the wrong equipment.

However, there are certain caveats, not least that this act doesn’t apply to cars bought on finance; for that, you’re covered by the Supply of Goods Act. And, remember that, if there is a fault with your car, you have to complain to the company who sold it rather than the manufacturer of the car.

However, if this act does apply to you and you want to make a complaint, there are important steps to take, and you can read all about these in the ‘How do you complain?’ section.
Related topics:
Buying a car - your rights